Deconstructing Christmas!?

11158899-vintage-christmas-card-merry-christmas-letteringThat title sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? You’re first response may have been something like, “What’s wrong with this guy? I mean, who in their right mind wants to take on Christmas and what it stands for? Won’t that disrupt the earth’s gravitational field, our pursuit of peace on earth, or even worse, corrupt and ultimately destroy something that brings children, and adults alike, immense joy and warm fuzzies?”

Truth be told, I get it. I understand that our Christmas traditions are sacred cows. And because of that, we tend to shy away from rocking the boat and considering alternatives, even if it is just a simple conversation. But really, what’s the harm in asking a few clarifying questions? Are we afraid of what we’ll uncover? I’m asking you to trust me for the next few moments as you consider the questions that I’ve been recently asking as my family and I approach another Christmas celebration. Go on and let your hair down, grab a fresh cup of joe, curl up nice and cozy by the fireplace, and think with me. Just give it a try. Then decide for yourself: Is this guy completely crazy or is this a conversation worth having?

So this idea of deconstructing Christmas is simply a way for me and my family to strip away all the traditions of the season and ask the question: What are we celebrating on Christmas Day? This question forces us to be honest with ourselves and provides a fresh opportunity for us to establish new traditions that are more in line with what we’re celebrating. And as you continue to read, you’ll notice how the answer to this question ultimately affects other areas of our lives as well. HBD-JESUS

Our answer to the above question is Jesus’ birthday. Are you surprised? Were you expecting another answer? How do you and others answer this question? Remember, the answer to this question lays the foundation for how we celebrate. But before we focus on the how, I believe that we are first forced to answer the question: Why do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday?

In some ways, I believe that society forces all of us into celebrating Christmas with all of the decorating, seasonal entertainment, and the gift giving to the point that Jesus’ birthday becomes an after thought. It’s hard to escape this part of our culture, especially when retailers are promoting it before we hand out one piece of candy to the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhoods. It’s because of this type of brainless, forced cultural traditions that I believe that we need to consider deconstructing Christmas.

Celebrating Jesus’ birthday is an opportunity for us to center our hearts around how God choosing to be with us changes everything for everyone. From the moment Jesus was born, hope could enter every human heart. Jesus’ birth was a sign that God’s rescue plan for all mankind was in full swing. For us today, the season of advent leading up to Jesus’ birthday celebration is a reminder that we are to be eagerly awaiting when he comes again to complete his rescue plan.

With this answer we can now press in more deeply and practically and ask the how questions that will help us line up the way we celebrate with what we’re actually celebrating. How should we celebrate Jesus’ birthday?

Let’s think logically for a moment. When it’s your birthday, who receives the presents? You receive the presents, right?. So, doesn’t it make sense that when it’s Jesus’ birthday that he receives the presents? I’m amazed at how we’ve allowed Jesus’ birthday to become centered around us giving and receiving gifts to each other and neglecting giving gifts to Jesus?

To be honest, I had originally thought that our family would do away with giving presents to each other on Christmas all together, and just focus on the ways we could give to Jesus. But as I continued to process this whole idea of deconstructing Christmas, I realized that we didn’t have to throw out everything, but rather create some new traditions that make our gift giving more intentional. For my family, this means that we give our children three types of gifts: Something to wear, something to read, and something that is just for fun. This helps us to keep things simple, all the while being intentional about what we’re giving. We ask questions like: What piece of clothing do they really need, or would they absolutely love? What book would they benefit from reading at this stage of their life? What toy, game, etc. would they be thrilled to receive?

Now, I completely understand that this idea of gift giving is where most of us will have a hard time deconstructing, primarily because it will affect more than just us. Making a change in how our family celebrates Christmas has the potential of being misunderstood by not only our extended families, but our friends and neighbors as well. Communicating our new convictions can be tricky. Without trying to sound self-righteous or offensive, our explanations often fall short. It’s important to take some time to consider the best way to share our new traditions with others that doesn’t say we’re right and you’re wrong, but simply expresses our desire to focus our families on Jesus and the celebration of his birth and the reality that he’s coming again.

So, in addition to giving gifts to each other on Christmas, how do we give gifts to Jesus as well? What can we really give him?

For starters, giving ourselves to Jesus seems to be the best place to start. Surrendering our will and choosing to follow Jesus allows for God’s glory to cover the earth and for the Holy Spirit to work through our relationships to draw people to himself. Another way for us to give to Jesus is to give him our time and resources for the benefit of others. We might serve in the community together as a family. We might give some money to needs in our society or around the world. There are so many options for us to consider during this time of the year. Matthew 25:31-46 reminds us that when we give to those in need that we’re giving to Jesus. This certainly sounds like a great way for us to celebrate Jesus’ birthday!

Another way for us to give is to focus our attention and our hearts through worship, surrender and obedience. When I read the Christmas story, these three themes are constantly popping out at me. Both the shepherds and the wise men humbled themselves in worship when they arrived on the scene. And Mary, the mother of Jesus, seems to be in a constant attitude of worship from the moment she’s visited by the angel and told how God wanted to use her in his rescue plan to when she’s curled up in a mound of straw gazing into her newborn Savior’s eyes. We see Joseph and Mary surrender themselves to God’s rescue plan. We see the shepherds surrender their fear to go in search of the newborn King and obey, telling everyone they could about what God had done. We see the wise men obey God’s direction in a dream and protect this new family of three.

These are just a few ideas that I’ve had. In addition, I’ve created some family-friendly resources to help our family make the most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the midst of our other traditions and gift-giving. Special thanks to Kavanna House for giving me permission to utilize some of their material as part of these resources. Click on the links below to take a look.

Christmas Eve Activity
Christmas Day Activity

I can’t wait to see how my family and yours alike discover new ways to give to Jesus on his birthday as we make this an intentional part of how we celebrate from year to year.

One last note: because our focus at Christmas time is on celebrating Jesus’ birthday, we’ve decided to ramp up our birthday celebrations for our kids throughout the year. What better way to show that people matter than to celebrate them on their birthday. This will help us keep our focus on Jesus when his birthday is celebrated each year.

Again, the above are just some of my initial thoughts on how our family is making a shift in how we celebrate Jesus birthday. It’s my hope that you’ll join this discussion. I honestly believe we can learn so much from each other.

How are you and your family celebrating Jesus’ birthday this year?